Steep, rocky and hot. The Kalkofen (Limestone Kiln) vineyard is appropriately named. The heat is sometimes unbearable and pale particles are indeed abundant in the soil. The climatic and geological conditions are not the only challenge for humans and vines. Our parcel in the Kalkofen can only be reached over stairs. The terraces are narrow and offer just enough room for two vine rows. There is no irrigation. A scant covering of humus means that Riesling vines often grow in bare rock. And it is nearly always Riesling in Kalkofen. Contrary to Grüner Veltliner, Riesling can cope well with these extreme conditions and transport the essence of this place into the wine.
Deep and humus-rich – at least on the shallow and only slightly inclined slopes on the west end of the vineyard. Brandstatt has two faces that couldn’t be more different from one another. The Riesling face is meagre, dominated by rock, braced with stone walls and separated from the Bruck vineyard only by a ravine. The other face slopes in gentle swales and soft contours toward the valley floor and is based on fertile, nutrient-rich soils. This is where our Grüner Veltliner grows, but those who suspect this is an easy parcel to cultivate are wrong. The vineyard is situated on a mountain ridge that is lit by the evening sun. It is not accessible with a tractor (we don’t have one anyway). The complete area is tended by hand. The 50-year-old vines have enormous potential and a unique character that we strive to successively reveal.
The Trenning vineyard comprises the monumental border to the Waldviertel (Forest Quarter) and carries traits of the region to its north. It is more highly elevated than any other vineyard in the Wachau and its vines climb up to 550 metres a.s.l. (1,800 ft.). The soils are a unique stone in the geological mosaic of the Wachau. Graphite and a little limestone accompany the region’s ubiquitous gneiss. The Trenning faces south. Viticulture would otherwise be impossible in this raw, cold and windy location. The site is also relatively dry and all work is done by hand without a tractor. All of these factors make the Trenning the greatest challenge in our vineyard quartet. And why don’t we just come out and say it? It is also our favourite site. We believe in its potential, even if we have found no similar comparisons to date. We also believe that is only Riesling that can bring the story of the Trenning vineyard to the ultimate point.
Everything began with this vineyard across from the village of Viessling. We purchased our first small parcel here in 2013 – eight completely wild and overgrown terraces that had lay abandoned for 10 years. After clearing the shrubs and trees and restacking 120 square metres of dry stone walls, we planted a selection of local Grüner Veltliner cuttings from Wachau vintners in 2014. The Schön vineyard is based on dark schist and paragneiss with deep topsoil that is predestined for Grüner Veltliner. Like all of our sites, our parcels in the Schön vineyard are cultivated manually. We apply only sulphur, copper, compost, biodynamic preparations and plant infusions. The first harvest took place in 2017.
The GRABENWERK wines represent introductory interpretations of a territory, the attempt to capture an entire valley, initially with just one wine and from 2018 onwards with two wines. Instead of a detailed focus on a single vineyard, insights to a larger entity are offered, everything that distinguishes the entirety of the Spitzer Graben – the coolness, the steep terraces and meagre soils that highlight aroma and structure, which are completely different from the Wachau Danube Valley. Spiciness, rectilinearity and tautness unite with pine needle and forest floor notes. Fruit aromas support rather than push to the foreground. Both GRABENWERK wines are sourced from early pickings and grapes from younger parcels. The Grüner Veltliner also includes grapes from old vineyards that are otherwise dedicated to Riesling; three terraces with 50-year-old vines in Kalkofen and a couple parcels in Trenning with 20-year-old vines provide additional dimensions.
Work in the vineyard and cellar follow exactly the same production procedures as for our single-vineyard wines.
Here we take a look outside the Spitzer Graben to the opposite end of the Wachau in Mautern. We purchase Grüner Veltliner grapes there from a friend that cultivates his old vineyard the same way we take care of ours: attentively and with abundant manual labour. We make one wine from here, which represents an alternative concept to GRABENWERK. Softer, more approachable and warmer – WACHAUWERK tells the story of its terroir, which is marked with deep, humus-rich soil and a Pannonian climate. Only 20 kilometres away from our vineyards in Spitzer Graben, it represents a completely different side of the Wachau.
WACHAUWERK is the entry gate to our Grüner Veltliner world. It is vinified according to the same principles as our great single-vineyard wines. That means: whole cluster press, spontaneous fermentation, no fining and no filtration.
Wines that break outside our classic assortment appear under this name. These are wines without taboos. Wild, courageous wines that run counter to current vinification conventions, wines that explore and sometimes break boundaries. Wines from other grape varieties that grow next to and between our Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, varieties with possibilities we want to explore.
2017 - ROHSTOFF I: Irrefutably one of a kind, because these Neuburger vines have since been pulled to make room for a new Riesling vineyard. Harvested late, but fully healthy. Two thirds of the grapes were whole-cluster pressed, the remainder destemmed and added to the must to ferment together. Vinified in a used wooden barrel, the ROHSTOFF I is weighty and profound, compact and juicy. A wine that looks the future in the eye.
2017 - ROHSTOFF II: The Wachau never produced exclusively white wine. Even when the winters in Spitzer Graben were still really cold and the summers not much warmer, black grape varieties were also planted in the terraces. In our part of the Brandstatt vineyard, we have 50-year-old St. Laurent vines, which are the source of our rosé. Pressed slowly, but without a maceration period, the emphasis is on subtlety. The colour is pale pink, the aromas earthy, herbal and red-berried.